Michigan Limestone Formations & Uses

Michigan has the largest limestone quarry in the world.

In prehistoric times, a shallow sea covered much of North America, including the Great Lakes region. Shells and coral buried in the sediment ultimately formed limestone. A form of limestone containing fossilized coral, known as Petoskey Stone, holds the designation as Michigan’s state stone. Although scenic limestone formations have natural beauty, the real benefit of Michigan limestone lies in its purity for industrial and residential uses.

Niagara Escarpment and Outcroppings

From a geologic standpoint, some of the thickest and hardest limestone formations in Michigan belong to an ancient limestone ridge called the Niagara Escarpment, which formed during the Silurian Period estimated at 500 million years ago. Stretching from Door County, Wisconsin, across the south shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Niagara escarpment extends to New York State, where it forms the spectacular waterfalls at Niagara Falls. Along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Niagara Escarpment rises hundreds of feet above a deep harbor in the historic town site of Fayette on the Garden Peninsula. The kilns of Fayette required limestone for smelting pig iron. On Mackinac Island, the limestone outcropping of Arch Rock has legendary significance in Native American history. According to Ottawa legend, the souls of lost loved ones cross over the bridge of Arch Rock on their journey to the next life.

Devonian and Ordovician Trenton Limestone

Underground formations of Devonian and Ordovician Period limestone occur from the eastern Upper Peninsula throughout most of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Trenton Limestone holds oil, and the limestone itself has uses for road and building construction.

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Limestone Mining in Michigan

Limestone quarries in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula have operated since the 1800s. In 2011, a global corporation owns the largest limestone quarry in the world at Rogers City, along with quarries in Gulliver and Cedarville. According to a report from Michigan State University, these quarries produced between 13 million and 18 million tons of limestone in 2003. Numerous smaller companies harvest limestone for construction and landscaping.

Uses for Michigan Limestone

Michigan limestone works well for construction and landscaping.

Uses for Michigan Limestone include flux for steel production, cement production, manufacture of paper and glass, refining beet sugar, gas purification, water softening, construction, landscaping, paving and in the chemical industries.

Hidden Treasure in Dolomite

Dolomite, a form of limestone containing magnesium, exists in abundance in Michigan. Dolomite may contain reserves of 400 million tons of strong, light weight metallic magnesium used in manufacturing planes, trucks, buses and rail cars. The use of the metallic magnesium reserves depends on the development of an economical method of extracting the magnesium from dolomite.